The newly-published figures from the government and NHBC show a 3% rise in new construction orders in the fourth quarter of 2012 (compared to the preceding quarter) and a 30% growth in new home registrations respectively.

The statistics follow on from Travis Perkins’ recent annual results, in which the merchant predicted that markets "will turn" for the better later in 2013. The company also expects its next change to be a "more expansionary stance in volume".

While hesitant to declare an end to difficult times in the build sector, the Construction Products Association (CPA), which has had the thankless task of communicating gloomy build stats during the last few years, said the fourth quarter was the second consecutive quarter of new construction order growth.

"It potentially provides positive signs for the industry," it said.

CPA economics director Noble Francis expressed optimism when interviewed by John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this week.

New construction orders were 11% higher than in the same quarter one year earlier.

"New orders are a forward-looking indicator and it will take around 12-18 months before the industry sees the benefits of this in construction output," said CPA economist Milja Keijonen.

"Private housing has a much shorter time-lag between orders and output so the 10% growth in private housing new orders in Q4 should lead to a rise in output this year."

New commercial sector orders were 14% higher in Q4, compared to Q3.

Fresh NHBC figures showing a 30% growth in new home registrations at the start of 2013, compared to a year ago, are another positive indicator and cushion the blow of an earlier report showing housing starts fell 11% last year to 98,280 units.

The number of new homes registered in January totalled 10,112, compared to 7,831 in the same month last year.

Figures for the rolling quarter November 2012 to January 2013 show an 18% growth compared to the same three-month period a year ago.

"We are heartened by the encouraging registration statistics for January which follow a strong end to last year," said NHBC commercial director Richard Tamayo.

Housebuilders also continue to report positive results.